Friday, March 31, 2006

Quotes From The Book "Kitchen Table Wisdom"

"Spiritual teachers come in many guises. Sometimes they come in the guise of physicians like Rachel, sometimes in the guise of ordinary people who are suffering with disease. To learn to hear the spiritual teaching that all of can offer to each other is what this book is all about."

"As a physician, and as a human being, I live in a world of stories. Stories are not replicable because we are each unique. Our uniqueness is what gives us value and meaning. Yet in the telling of stories we also learn what makes us similar, what connects us all, what helps us transcend isolation that separates us from each other and ourselves."

"Stories are the language of community."

"People who feel lonely and isolated are more likely to smoke, to overeat, to abuse drugs, to work too hard. Also many studies have shown that people who feel lonely and isolated have three to five times the risk of premature death not only from heart disease but also from all causes when compared to those who have a sense of connection and community."

"Suffering - whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or as is often the case, all three - can be a doorway to transformation."

"Telling stories can be healing."

"Listening to stories can be healing."

Dean Ornish - From the forward to the book "Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal" by Rachel Naomi Remen.

If you find these interesting, I typed in a few more quotes from this book over at my Yahoo! blog. This is one of those books that is filled with gems. I have 20 or 30 markers in it with underlines to remind of the parts I liked. I highly recommend it.

Somethings Happening Here

What it is ain't exactly clear.

Time Magazine got around to a cover story with a picture of a polar bear on a melting ice field this week. They have the words "be worried - be very worried" to add to the urgency.

The article is nothing new, assuming you have been paying attention - we have been doing a lot of things to mother earth without knowing what the ultimate effects will be, not unlike our current faith and a prayer approach to genetic or bio engineering or other tweaking of complex systems without adequate predictive models. We can't really test everything, our models may be more or less accurate, but in the name of progress we plod on.

Ilya Prigogine who was awarded the 1977 Nobel Prize for his work on the thermodynamics of nonequilibrium systems talks about a bifurcation point. effects may be slow until a certain tipping point and then a drastic change starts to occur very rapidly.

It might help to think about heating water in understanding a bifurcation point - not much happens as you raise the temperature to 100 C but then all of sudden voila it starts to boil. The average temperature of the earth has risen about a degree in a hundred years - we tend to think no problem it's only one degree - unless we are near some bifurcation point in this complex planet we live on. Another tenth of a degree might kill off the toads, or the polar bears, some flowers, some species of fish or maybe there is some complex system interaction that will end up killing us....nobody knows. At some point people may want to pay attention to the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

Besides not knowing what bifurcation points we may be closing in on, the non-linearity is where we are starting to run into a problem with good old mother earth. We've been putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate as our affluent society uses internal combustion engines and coal/gas/oil fired power plants to maintain our standard of living. Carbon dioxide has the effect of trapping heat in our atmosphere, what we call the "greenhouse effect". This isn't completely a bad thing since earth would be a cold and inhospitable place without the heat trapping effect of carbon dioxide.

Things have been going pretty good. We saw a little climate change but nothing to get overly concerned about, at least not to the point of signing up to the Kyoto treaty or anything drastic like cutting consumption of fuel by raising federal minimums for gas mileage.

The problems start to occur when we get just a little too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and things go exponential as they say. How much is "a little too much much" you ask?

No one knows but we are running a very risky experiment with the planet to figure it out.

Here's the main points of what's happening in case you haven't been paying attention -

Cars, trucks, power plants and industry have been pouring carbon into the atmosphere causing the greenhouse effect to make the earth a little too much of a greenhouse.

Slight rises in global temperature have caused the polar icecaps, and various glaciers to begin melting. We thought this would be a slow process...turns out we were wrong. Once the glacier ice starts to melt it happens much quicker than we thought.

Ice is a much better reflector of heat from the sun than the ocean. As the ice disappears we have a secondary effect of even more warming as the oceans absorb heat from the sun and warm up.

The disturbance in the ocean temperature impacts our climate. The sinking of colder ocean currents form a heat pump that modulates the weather - warming the earth as the water approaches the poles and cooling it as the currents sink and return to the equatorial regions. Net result - unknown - but it looks like Europe is in for some very cold winters, some places will have unprecedented droughts; not to mention typhoons, hurricanes and other unpleasant weather.

Trees convert carbon dioxide to oxygen...unfortunately for us we have been cutting down the forests like there's no tomorrow.

There are secondary effects due to the decreasing salinity of the oceans, melting of the permafrost which releases methane (another greenhouse gas), tilling land formerly covered by trees (again releasing methane) and the surface warming that occurs as cooling forests are cut down.

The main point is that no one really knows how this all works. The solutions will be complex and not easy. It may mean addressing the afflueza we suffer from in the U.S. and end up downsizing in a big way - from our houses, to our commuting distances, to our gas guzzling cars and eventually population migrations from our air conditioned desert oases ala Las Vegas to more hospital climes. Be nice to Canadians.

Economics will play a major role. The system is somewhat self correcting as we see rising costs of energy.

We have to act globally.

Carbon emissions trading is probably the best bet. These exchanges have been put into place in the E.U. and various regions of the U.S.

It would be relatively simple for the government to implement an individual or household based carbon emissions exchange. We start the program by giving each person an allocation to emit a certain amount of carbon into the atmosphere. If you plant a tree you might have one credit. If I drive my old fuel inefficient pickup I might want to buy your credit. We can negotiate on the price.

The same thing can be done with corporations, although the allocations would be more complex - certainly doable as evidenced in the E.U. exchange.

Carbon emissions trading could be a highly lucrative market, and that my friend may be just the incentive we need. - What You Can Do

Global Warming - Wikipedia

Post-script - System Dynamics needs to be a required course of study for all school children, if for no other reason than it will make them better consumers of what passes for "knowledge" in our society.

Here's an example of how SD could help -

Assume you were a school kid in the 1970's who had studied system dynamics and understood something about complex system dynamics. Then assume an expert said there was no evidence that people contributed to global warning. A little bell would go off in your head and you'd think - hey no one could know that for sure. We don't have accurate models of the earth's atmosphere, ecosystem, climate, you can't possibly know that. Then you'd say since we don't know - let's exercise caution...fools rush in where angels fear to tread as they say.

If you think about it you might be able to find some correlations between the global warming discussions in the last century where experts were sure humans had nothing to do with global warming, or that global warming was not occuring and the experts today who tell you bio engineering or genetic engineering could not possibly cause unintended advese effects. Even experts can be wrong sometimes. We have been both incredibly egotistical in our belief that we understand things we really don't, and incredibly sheep-like in the thought that the "experts" would look out for us.

One of the tenets of whole systems engineering is that we could do with fewer "experts" and more "system" engineers that can utilize knowledge from the sciences - chemistry, biology, physics, as well as ethics, psychology, sociology, history etc. to come up with solutions that are best for the interconnected system we live in.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Next Time I Feel Like Whining

I ran across the AMFPA website today. AMFPA is the acronym for the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists.

The human spirit burns brightly in people even when faced with what may seem to be insurmountable odds.

One of the members of AMFPA is Antje Kratz a victim of thalidomide, a drug prescribed to combat morning sickness in pregnant women during the 50's and 60's. Inadequate testing failed to alert people to the hazards of this drug and 12,000 children in 46 countries were born with congenital malformations before it was banned for use during pregnancy.

From the Wikipedia article on Thalidomide -

Famous children of thalidomide

* Brett Nielsen is a musician. His career in sound began over 25 years ago in commercial radio and television. He lives in Mullumbimbi, Australia with his wife and 3 children. Brett was the first Australian thalidomide child.

* Terry Wiles' life was documented in the book "On Giant's Shoulders: The Story of Terry Wiles" (ISBN 0723001464) by Marjorie Wallace, as well as in a movie by the same name adapted from the book.

* Tony Melendez is a guitarist who was born without arms. He plays only with his feet.

* Thomas Quasthoff is an internationally acclaimed bass-baritone who describes himself : "1.34 meters tall, short arms, seven fingers - four right, three left - large, relatively well formed head, brown eyes, distinctive lips; profession: singer."

* Prof. Theresia Degener was born without arms. She is a prominent human rights lawyer with a special interest in the rights of the disabled.

* Antje Kratz is an artist and a member of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists of the World.

Lots of things to learn, so little time - from a positive-thinking point of view the lesson of making the best of what gifts we have, from a skeptics point of view the utter insanity of putting unquestioning trust in science and scientists.

How to Drink More Water Everyday

This article says even mild dehydration — as little as a 1 percent to 2 percent loss of your body weight — can sap your energy and make you tired.

Lifehacker link to a wikiHow article on how to drink more water everyday. Not sure of the peer review process for wikiHow articles - this one says, "In some places, such as Philadelphia, the tap water actually contains the same electrolytes that are in Gatorade."

hmmmm..I don't know what electrolytes are, but it sounds like a good deal for people who live in Philadelphia.

In any case I'm a firm believer in the health benefits of water, and like to try and drink as much of it as I can.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Kids - Too Wired Today?

The March 27th issue of Time has an interesting article by Claudia Wallis, on the impact of technology and multi-tasking on kids today. She calls this GenM - The Multitasking Generation. They're e-mailing, IMing and downloading while writing the history essay. What is all that digital juggling doing to kids' brains and their family life?

As you might expect it's a mixed bag. Some good some not so good. We aren't very good at multitasking when it comes to complex cognitive tasks. We can walk and chew gum but we can't write an essay on Plato's allegory of the cave and do our calculus assignment at the same time. We do those sorts of tasks sequentially. Trying to multitask simply means we take longer and generally end up with a lower quality result.

Rather than take the sometimes typical adult point of view that the younger generation is bound for perdition, it's in everyone's best interest to learn about technology - to understand the pros and cons of IMing, social networks like Myspace and Facebook, try some video games, download an MP3 music file. Try to see what might be good about these activities, talk to your kids, talk to each other and think about your own screen time.

It's hypocritical to bemoan kids use of computers, cell phones, IMing - all of which can be used to connect to other humans - while spending excessive amounts of time glued to the TV set yourself. It's hard to justify the "going to hell in a handbasket" point of view when you consider what we have available today versus the pre-internet days. As Steven Johnson writes, "Twenty or 30 years ago, we sat in submissive wonder soaking up the magic of Three's Company and Who's The Boss?"

It's as usual, a matter of balance. We need to be able to focus on some tasks for extended periods and other times we can do multiple things at the same time. The ability to access and list multitudes of information is not the same skill set as being able to create a meaningful essay that holds together. The ability to IM someone with short bursts of chat, or call someone on a cell phone, is not the same as taking the time to have a conversation - face to face.

It might boil down to how much effort we are willing to put into something or someone. The wired world can be easy - giving us the appearance of social connection or learning without the effort of stopping what we are doing to concentrate on anyone or anything.

If we stop at the wired world we end up with fairly shallow ideas about both socialization and learning. It's only when we take the time and make the effort to sort through the data, remix it, integrate it, form it into patterns - that we begin to learn. Regurgitation is neither learning nor an indication of knowledge - regardless of what some fans of testing, or bloggers, might think.

Now that's hypocritical...


TIME Magazine Archive Article -- The Multitasking Generation -- Mar. 27, 2006

Everything Bad Is Good for You
How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter

Monday, March 27, 2006

Keeping Your Identity and Integrity In an Organization

From the book - "The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck.

"The selective withholding of one’s opinions must also be practiced from time to time in the world of business or politics if one is to welcomed into the councils of power. If people were always to speak their minds on issues both great and small, they would be considered insubordinate by the average supervisor, and a threat to an organization by management. They would gain reputations for abrasiveness and would be deemed too untrustworthy ever to be appointed as spokesman for an organization. There is simply no way around the fact that if one is to be at all effective within an organization, he or she must partially become an “organization person,” circumspect in the expression of individual opinions, merging at times personal identity with that of the organization. On the other hand, if one regards one’s effectiveness in an organization as the only goal of organizational behavior, permitting only the expression of those opinions that would not make waves, then one has allowed the end to justify the means, and will have lost personal integrity and identity by becoming the total organization person. The road that an executive must travel between the preservation and loss of his or her identity and integrity is extraordinarily narrow, and very, very few really make the trip successfully. It is an enormous challenge."

The Road Less Traveled

Good Food Great Service

I really enjoyed our lunch at the Silence-Heart-Nest in Fremont this Saturday. The food was good, the servers very attentive, calm and polite.

It’s not for everyone, but if you like vegetarian, meditation type stuff it’s not a bad place to check out.

They have little cards on the table with sayings by Sri Chinmoy to take with you. I’m not familiar with his work but his website says -

We are aspiring for harmony
In the inner life and in the outer life.
I deeply value the oneness
Of all human beings.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Cream Reunion Special

My local Seattle PBS station KCTS Channel 9 is airing a Cream Reunion Special right now.

It's great to see those old codgers up there rockin and rollin. Eric Clapton is the youngest of the bunch at 60. Cream wasn't around long - only a couple of years from 1966 to 1968, but they were one of my favorite groups as a kid. I had an 8-track "Best of Cream" that we used to listen to a lot while cruising around the Montana countryside.

They just did Robert Johnson's "Crossroads", now it's "White Room" and they finish the show with "Sunshine of My Love".

They are a little more subdued than the 60's versions of the songs, but still great.

I drove 40 miles to an Eric Clapton concert once, but he didn't show up - he was sick from his heroin addiction. He looks good now.

The band Cream consists of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker on drums and Jack Bruce the bass player. If you have never listened to their music they have a lot of great songs that would make a nice addition to anyone's collection who appreciates the music of the 60's or just good rock and roll in general. Cream influenced lots of other bands - The Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews...and many others.

I think I'll buy a CD version of that old 8-track.

The Very Best of Cream

Disraeli Gears

Fresh Cream

Buck Owens

Browsing through Boing Boing I learned Buck Owens passed away yesterday. He was pretty entertaining.

What I found most entertaining about the article though was the quote -

"One of my friends used to like to take LSD and watch Hee Haw..."

Well alrighty then.

I think my favorite Buck Owen's song is probably "Act Naturally". You can listen to a clip at Amazon on "Buck Owens - All-Time Greatest Hits, Vol.1" or on this album with Buck and his Buckeroos -

Friday, March 24, 2006



Just sitting.

Help wanted.

Skills – Be able to sit beside

I met the qualifications so I took the job

It doesn’t pay much, a cup of coffee now and then

But it’s enriching beyond description to just sit beside the quiet

So quiet, so peaceful, so gentle – leaving this place to return from where we came

Just what you need will show up just when you need it

Have faith

Hospitals can be very quiet in the early morning
Before the sun comes up
Step outside into the cool night
Feel the rain clean rain

If I know the answer the question is too simple

If there are no answers – then we trust in some general guidelines

Love in it’s many forms is present in this world – we just have to look and listen

So quiet….so peaceful….so gentle

Good night and good morning
Goodbye and hello

It’s all right here – right now – we just have to look and listen – be still and know

There are no answers – just some general guidelines

Love in it’s many forms is present in this world – we just have to look and listen….slow down….quiet now – see it, hear it, feel it.

For all of you - May God bless you and continue to give you Peace and the presence of mind to spread that Peace to those you meet along the road.


Postscript - Just some free association type writing this early morning. A way to try and capture some feelings. There are many volunteer opportunities for people who are good at sitting beside another, being quiet, not knowing the answer and who want to make a difference however slight in someone else's life as they near the end of this life. If you are not comfortable being with people at the end of life, there are many other things you can do to help....and one of the best benefits is you will meet some of the kindest, most enlightened, caring and loving people you could ever imagine.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Happy Birthday!

If the winds are favorable I expect to be in California in a day or so.

In any event, happy birthday to you today.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

God Made Man Because He Loves Stories

Interesting excerpt from a book by Sheldon Kopp -
"God made man because He loves stories.*

When God lived, and man belonged, psychology was no more than "a minor branch of the art of storytelling and mythmaking." Today each man must work at telling his own story if he is to be able to reclaim his personal identity.

Should he start out on a psychotherapeutic pilgrimage, he sets out on an adventure in narration. Everything depends on the telling. The "principle of explanation consists of getting the story told - somehow, anyhow - in order to discover how it begins." The basic presumption is that the telling of the tale will itself yield good counsel. This second look at his personal history can transform a man from a creature trapped in his past to one who is freed by it. But the telling is not all.

Along the way, on his pilgrimage, each man must have the chance to tell his tale. And, as each man tells his tale, there must be another there to listen. But the other need not be a guru. He need only rise to the needs of the moment. There is an old saying that when ever two Jews meet, if one has a problem, the other automatically becomes a rabbi."

* as originally told by Elie Wiesel, The Gates to the Forest 1966 Holt, Rinehart, & Winston


The book that quote comes from is called If You Meet The Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! written by Sheldron Drake in 1972. I've not read it yet, but it sounds like it might be interesting -

"The Zen Master warns: "If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him!" This admonition points up that no meaning that comes from outside ourselves is real. The Buddhahood of each of us has already been obtained. We need only recognize it. Killing the Buddha on the road means destroying the hope that anything outside of ourselves can be our master. We must each give up the master without giving up the search. The importance of things lies in the way we have learned to think about them. How often we make circumstances our prison and other people our jailers! At our best we take full responsibility for what we do and what we choose not to do. The most important struggles take place within the self."

Monday, March 20, 2006

Journey North: Monarch Butterfly has a few pages of comments from 2nd graders about why we should care about the Monarch Butterfly.

Kids are smart.

Not so sure about us - Experts: Monarch butterfly population in jeopardy - Apr 20, 2005

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sitting With Sadness - Jumping With Joy

I haven’t done much physical or aerobic activity this week and I’m feeling it. Too much sitting and snacking are taking their toll. Combining that with a pervasive feeling of slight sadness and I’m not at the top of my game.

It’s a chicken or egg sort of thing. Which came first – the not feeling so good? Or the excessive sitting and snacking? Did I sit and snack because I was feeling a little poorly or did all that sitting and snacking lead to feeling not so hot?

It’s probably a little bit of both.

One thing I’m sure of is this, like all things, shall pass.

I had a couple of minor physical ailments last week that led to me being housebound for several days. In addition, spring – with it’s new growth and rebirth, is not giving me a sense of hope and joy, but rather providing a sharp contrast between life ending and beginning. In some ways I prefer the cold and gray of fall turning to winter. Wet, cold weather provides us a reason to be introspective, to be inside, not so busy, and to share our closed-in-ness with those around us.

It would be nice to connect with the child inside us, as spring approaches. To experience the pure joy of warmer weather and the promise of play, running, friends, games, laughter and the knowledge that there isn’t too much time until school’s out and we are set free to explore a whole 3 months of summer (how long those 3 months were).

Nowadays I’m less connected to the seasons. There are no long summers, but rather short vacations. There are no days of being outside with friends, until it was dark, or dinnertime and time to go home. Sometimes I forget for a moment what season it is. Being in an office contributes to that, as well as the less sharply defined weather we have in this area – compared to say – Fargo, North Dakota. Generally you have a good idea that it’s wintertime in Fargo. In Everett it can be cool to slightly warm, maybe with a little rain mixed in or at least partly cloudy anytime of the year and often is.


It’s okay to feel sad.

Giving your self permission to feel is not always so easy. Our culture is set up for happy shiny people. If you aren’t happy you are “depressed” – i.e. you need to be medicated. I would never claim that clinical depression is not serious and that various treatment options need to be explored – medication, counseling, exercise (if possible) and meditation/self-work could all be valuable. The place where I part company is when people try to tell us that we shouldn’t feel sad when things in life are sad.

For example – say someone you love is leaving. This is sad and you might feel like crying, cuddling up with a warm blanket, doing nothing….etc.

Life is about loss.

That’s sad.

We lose our youth, we lose our friends, we lose our family and other loved ones, our health. We give things up little by little until eventually we are left with our self and then give that up too.

We need something to hold onto in the forever-giving up we call life. Some thing, or more precisely some one to give our life meaning. For some it is caring for children, for some a spouse or other relative that needs a caregiver, it might even be a pet for some people. For some it’s a stranger who could use a helping hand. We all know people who find meaning in caring for others.

It’s not uncommon for the caregiver’s health to deteriorate after they lose someone they cared about and for. A wife or husband who dies shortly after their husband or wife died. An elderly mother or father, brother or sister who was caring for a family member and when that family member passed away – not too long afterward the care-giver began to deteriorate and eventually dies as well. I heard a story on the radio about a 101 year old woman who was helping to care for her younger (90 something) brother and sister. The doctor said the 101 year old woman’s longevity could be attributed to her having “meaning” in her role of taking care of, and dearly loving, her younger siblings.

I think the message in this may be that when we look for meaning, and at a more basic level - things that will extend our lives, we get the most bang for our buck by looking for meaningful human relationships. I suppose there are cases of people who lost a job, or a car, a home and then began to physically deteriorate – but I’m not aware of anyone who had something like that happen to them – and then as a result died. The point is that we need to understand our own priorities – ask your self, what’s most important to me? Then make sure that the important isn’t lost in the trivial.

Returning to the point that it’s okay to feel sad, I have to say it’s not just important to remember it’s okay to feel sad – but that it’s okay to feel. Not just important but essential for a good life. There’s a dichotomy here - We don’t want to feel one-way all the time, and if we do – it’s probably time to consult a health care professional. Generally we would seek help from a health care professional for depression. Not too many people go to a Doctor because they feel happy all the time. But…..

It would be just as unhealthy to feel happy all the time as it would be to feel sad all the time. Yet the T.V. the ads in magazines, the pharmaceutical companies and some health care people would like us to believe (and maybe believe themselves) that we should aspire to a life of uninterrupted bliss, or more likely in the real world outside of advertisements - a life of not feeling much of anything - not too sad, not too happy.

I’ll wrap up with a reminder to myself that being depressed, feeling sad, is not the same as depression. Feeling sad is a normal healthy response to life’s sad events, just as feeling joyful is an appropriate response to life’s happy events.

There’s a Christian note here as we proceed through Lent and approach Easter. I can’t think of any other story that turns upon such extreme, and abrupt, changes in emotions - sadness, suffering and death, turns to joy, redemption, and life. I wouldn’t take the Easter story to mean that sadness over death or other loss isn’t appropriate, but rather that life offers us, along with a generous dose of the mundane, the opportunity for peak experiences that may be very happy, or very sad – but all in all lead to a very good, fulfilling, whole - life.


Postscript - had some questions to help focus your priorities a couple of weeks back. I have included them below.

  • What is really important to me is -

  • What I have to give is -

  • My life is worth living because -

  • I still want to learn -

  • Living as long as I have, I have overcome –

  • Deep in my heart I know -

  • What I love most in life is -

Friday, March 17, 2006 - NCAA Near Misses has a nicely written article on some of the teams playing in this years NCAA basketball tournament.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


March Madness started last night with Monmouth's win over Hampton. Monmouth wins a chance to play number 1 seed Villanova on Friday. The Monmouth Hawks have a 7 foot 2 center and a guard who shot six 3 pointers in last nights game. A 16 seed that can get hot with 3 point shots probably has the best shot at upsetting a number 1 seed. It hasn't happened yet, but maybe the Hawks can make history and a 16 seed will defeat a number 1 seed? Unlikely, but you just never know. That's what makes it so much fun.

Lots of great backetball - the NIT is in progress and round 1 of the NCAA tournament gets going tomorrow at 9:20 am (PST).

NPR has a nice primer for the The NCAA Tournament , with A-Z coverage of interesting people and facts. Starting with Adam Morrison, one of Gonzaga's stars. Adam is a philosopher and a diabetic, who checks his blood sugar level and if necessary, gives himself insulin shots during games.

CBS is offering all games via live streaming video at March Madness on Demand. My guess is that feed is going to get bogged down and you'd be better off making time to watch your favorite team on TV and checking the scoring via the web for the rest of the games.


9:20 a.m. Wich. St. vs. Seton Hall
9:25 a.m. Okla vs. Wis.-Mil.
9:40 a.m. B.C. vs. Pacific
11:40 a.m. Marquette vs. Ala.
11:40 a.m. Tenn. vs. Winthrop
11:45 a.m. Florida vs. South Ala.
12:00 p.m. Nevada vs. Montana
1:55 p.m. UCLA vs. Belmont
4:10 p.m. LSU vs. Iona
4:10 p.m. G. Wash. vs. NC-Wilm.
4:20 p.m. Gonzaga vs. Xavier
4:25 p.m. Illinois vs. Air Force
6:30 p.m. Duke vs. Southern U.
6:30 p.m. Syr. vs. Texas A&M
6:40 p.m. Indiana vs. San Diego St.
6:45 p.m. Washington vs. Utah St.

FRIDAY, MARCH 17, 2006

9:15 a.m. Ohio St. vs. Davidson
9:25 a.m. Iowa vs. N'western St.
9:30 a.m. Arkansas vs. Bucknell
9:30 a.m. Arizona vs. Wisconsin
11:35 a.m. Georgetown vs. No. Iowa
11:45 a.m. W. Virginia vs. So. Ill.
11:50 a.m. Villanova vs. Monmouth
11:50 a.m. Memphis vs. Oral Roberts
4:10 p.m. Pittsburgh vs. Kent St.
4:10 p.m. Mich. St. vs. G. Mason
4:20 p.m. California vs. N.C. State
4:25 p.m. Connecticut vs. Albany
6:30 p.m. Kansas vs. Bradley
6:30 p.m. UNC vs. Murray St.
6:40 p.m. Texas vs. Penn
6:45 p.m. Kentucky vs. UAB


It's fun to fill out the brackets and see how many you can get right, but for those inclined to lose money betting on games the best source for point spreads is They have the point spreads, over/under and money lines being offered by the big online sportsbooks.

If you want to figure out what the point spread may be before the bookies set it - a good source is Jeff Sagarin. He's a MIT mathmatician, well known by major media and sports betting aficionados for his Sagarin Rankings for basketball, football and baseball.

If you aren't familiar with sports gambling it's pretty simple. The point spreads are given in terms of a number with the negative number indicating the favorite. For example if Villanova ends up being a 22 point favorite over Monmouth, the point spread will be given as Villanova -22.

This means Villanova has to beat Monmouth by 23 points for you to win your bet. If they win by 22 points it's a push and you get your bet back. If they win by 21 points or less - you lose bucko.

If you happen to go to a real sportsbook they have a big board with all the matchups. The point spread is given in terms of the first team shown in the matchup. It will be negative if the first team is a favorite or a positive number if the first team is an underdog.

Depending on where you place your bet you will need to pay the vigorish. This is one way (besides collecting on all the losing bets) that sportsbooks make money. The vigorish is somewhere between 3 and 10 percent, sometimes even more. Usually it's expressed in terms of a number like 110 meaning you bet 110 dollars to win 100 for the 10 percent vigorish example.

Sometimes you can bet the moneyline. This is just a pure odds bet, no point spread involved. You pick the winner. Sounds simple - the only problem is the bookmakers are way smarter than you are. Not to be insulting - but they have lots more information, mathmaticians and statistical knowledge than you will ever hope to. Even if you spend all your waking hours studying the statistics, odds, history, matchups etc. eventually, the longer you matter how much you know about will lose your money. It's the same with any gambling games of chance. Poker is a different story. At least if you are playing with players with different skill levels. At the top it's a statistical game too and you will, if you play long enough, give your money to the house - for the right to sit at the table.

Back to sports betting - The money line is given as a number too. For example if a team is a 3 point favorite you might see the moneyline for the favorite as -142. This means if you bet 142 dollars, and if your team wins, you win 100 dollars (you get your 142 back plus 100 dollars more). Conversely the moneyline for the dog may be +132. This means if you bet 100 dollars you win 132 dollars.

You don't have to bet dollars. Some online sportsbooks allow you to bet pennies, which I would recommend you do for a few months or years, to see how you do before investing your nest egg. I think you will find, if you are very careful, that you will just about break even. If you are foolish you will lose all your money and if you are lucky you will make some money - but not for long. Eventually the odds and the vigorish catch up with you and the fact that the score of games is at some level random (no one really knows if a team will win by 3 or 4 points), but that makes all the difference in the world to the bettor if the spread is 3 points. What happens over time is the random nature takes over and you end up giving 110 bucks to the bookie for each loss and winning 100 bucks for each win. In a 50-50 deal you can see that means eventually you will lose all your money.

But maybe not. Maybe you can come up with a system. A scheme. A better mousetrap....or more likely get lucky one time.

Actually if you want to gamble - sports betting has some of the best odds of any Vegas style gaming. It's on the same level as craps. Any other Vegas game is pretty much a sucker bet..not to say they aren't a heck of a lot of fun.

Speaking of sucker bets, most books shade the point spread to over-favor the favorite. What this means is that statistically if Duke is expected to beat Southern U by 23 points, the bookies will put the spread at 24 points because they know that most bettors will go with the favorite. This just makes it a little harder for you to win your bet. Making a little from a lot of people, is what keeps all those lights on in Vegas and the owners of some off-shore betting entities very very rich men.

Calvin Ayres the owner of the popular online sportsbook does business and lives in Costa Rica. He was recently named one of the world's richest men with a net worth of over 1 billion dollars. You can read a bit about him in the article Catch Me If You Can.

To each their own. You can gradually give a 100 dollars to the state sponsored lottery and have many one in a million chance of winning big or put your 100 bucks down on one game and a 50-50 chance of winning (it's not 50-50 over time because of the vig). You actually have to win 52.5 percent of the time to make a profit with a 10 percent vigorish. To illustrate this, imagine if you made 100 $1 bets and won 53 of them. You would win $53 and lose $47. So you're up $6. But on top of the $47, you lose another $4.70 (the 10% vig) and net $1.30.


My recommendation....forget about the point spreads, enjoy the games for the athletic and human story of people - players and fans enjoying themselves. Some people like the sports page, or sports stories in general because you can see so many human interest stories in sports - controversy, scandal, over-achieving, heroes, villians..etc.

I love the story of Jason McElwain the 17 year old high school senior who got into the game in the final four minutes and scored 20 points (6 were three pointers). I saw Jason with President Bush last night and it was pretty touching to see how kind George Bush was. He seemed to really be genuinely happy to be with Jason and of course vice-versa. Nice story.

Wishing you a good time watching, listening, or if you are really lucky attending or even playing in the NCAA basketball tournaments.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Costa Rica - Lonely Planet Destination Guide

Costa Rica sounds really nice from this Lonely Planet Destination Guide description -

"Costa Rica is Central America's jewel. It's an oasis of calm among its turbulent neighbours and an ecotourism heaven, making it one of the best places to experience the tropics with minimal impact. It's also mostly coastline, which means great surfing, beaches galore and a climate built for laziness.

Costa Rica's enlightened approach to conservation has ensured that lush jungles are home to playful monkeys, languid sloths, crocodiles, countless lizards, poison-dart frogs and a mind-boggling assortment of exotic birds, insects and butterflies. Meanwhile, endangered sea turtles nest on both coasts and cloud forests protect elusive birds and jungle cats."

Costa Rica is on the Central American isthmas, with Nicaragua to the North, and Panama to the South. Costa Rica has beautiful beaches - with the Carribean sea on the East and the Pacific Ocean to the West.

The dry season is December to April. The weather in San Jose ranges from 60 to 80 degrees. Temperatures on the coasts are higher.

Sounds like a nice place to visit.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Cultivating silence is the topic of the week at

We all have heard medical experts and spiritual teachers talk about the benefits of finding external quiet spaces and practicing internal silence. By practicing inner silence you will have a chance to reduce tension and stress - allowing for refreshment and renewal of your mind and body. Spritual teachers tell us we have a chance to become closer to the One, God, the Dharma, Buddha, or the essence of whatever spritual belief we hold.

We carry a lot of tension in ourselves because of the scripts that run constantly in our minds. These internal dialogues are like an endless tape that is so interesting, or tenacious, that it never lets us step back and experience anything new, or really experience anything at all. In the parlance of television - it's all reruns.

Simply being in a quiet space, aware of your breath, and not attaching to thoughts that come into our minds is pretty much the essence of meditation. You can recite a word or mantra in sychronization with your breathing to help keep your internal dialogue from turning on the reruns.

One thing that occurs as you practice exterior and interior silence is you become more aware of what's happening around you. That may seem counter-intuitive. It might seem like listening to other people, the news, music, TV shows, the internet - whatever is around you, would be the way to find out what's going on, but that is not really the case.

The net result of over indulgence in anything is that we build up a tolerance. We end up with high tolerances for noise, or in other words - auditory or visual signals without intelligence. Nothing connects the things we are bombarded with in any meaningful way.

Sometimes it seems the only thing we get out of news presented on TV, radio and in newpapers, is that it appears the world is going to hell in a handbasket. There is no thoughtful discussion, only the bombardment of "exciting" almost always bad, news. Nothing new about that - there's always a fire, a wreck, someone getting killed or dying. So why keep reading or listening to that over and over?

Because we don't really want to think, or be open to anything unusual, or mysterious. It's easy to be vicariously involved in bad news that involves "others". It's hard to be quiet and think about what a mess we are.


Noise is all around us. We don't really get anything out of listening to someone's cell phone conversation other than a sense of distraction and disconnection from other people. It's all there in the background - sirens, airplanes flying overhead, traffic noise, conversations we aren't part of - all noise. Not only the auditory but the symbolic or linguistic noise we see on the internet, magazines and newspapers. What connects it all together?

Pretty much nothing. It's an invitation to cultivate short attention spans and eventually no attention spans. Why is it that people seek vacations from the hustle and bustle? To re-create, refresh, invigorate to come back ready to go. Unfortunately a 2 week annual vacation isn't going to do much - and you know this, how quickly the "vacation" fades once you return to the grind. Meditation is an opportunity to take a vacation daily.

Not all meditative practice is spiritual, and meditation can have mental and physical benefits from a secular viewpoint, however in my world view meditation is associated with listening, waiting, and being present for God. It's quite mysterious and not explainable (otherwise it wouldn't be mysterious). It's a practice of faith. Not for everyone. If you are interested in a Christian form of spiritual meditation the best source I've found are the teachings of Father Thomas Keating.

Wishing you some quiet space on this fine day in March.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Microsoft Office Live

Microsoft Office Live offers a free domain name, web design tools, five email accounts, and traffic monitoring tools.

Certain features require you have Office 2000, or a later version, installed.

Beyond Google: Collective Searching

Technology Review has an article on a new software application called Boxxet that allows users to rate search results with the intent of improving relevence, timeliness, and usefulness of search results.

It sounds like something Google automated in the original PageRank™ algorithm, but we will see.

The article also mentions Microsoft's ongoing development of Windows Live in an effort to attract users.

It's amazing how many sites use some sort of social networking and consequently how competitive this area has become. Not sure if anyone has an authoritative list of how many such sites exist; but here's someone who is trying to keep up a Social Networking Services Meta List.

Not sure how successful a meta list will be given the continued specialization of such applications. For example, I noticed someone in the comments had noted that the meta list didn't include a virtual hamster and gerbil community.

The more I think about it I realize I don't know what social networks are, at least in terms of Web 2.0 speak.

Speed up Firefox

This isn't new - I've linked to it before, if you type "speed up firefox" into the Google machine you will get numerous hits like this one from Lifehacker with a few simple tips to speed up Firefox.


Not sure if that's a word but it pretty much describes least sometimes.

I got some red bumpy marks on my face yesterday. I thought it looked like my face was swelling up and then it looked like I had some bruising underneath the red spots. It's possible that just looking closely in the mirror caused me to notice how my face always looks..but anyway I quickly began diagnosing my illness in my mind.

I came up with -

(a) Dioxin poisoning. I thought of that poor Russian bloke who got the dioxin..why me? Who did this?

(b) A staff infection. I've been hanging around the hospital a fair amount lately. I imagine I have either a staff infection or a volunteer infection..since I'm not actually part of the staff.

(c) A serious staff infection. Probably flesh eating.

(d) Allergic reaction to bee glue. I've been taking bee glue (propolis) for awhile, but just started a new bottle. Could it be these bee's were chewing bark from a different tree? One that I'm allergic to?

(e) Accidently application of hot sauce to cheek area. Ouch. I did have some mildly hot sauce on my hands and might have rubbed my face a little.

(f) Something else.

I went to see my Physician and he diagnosed the red blotches as either a non-specific infection of some sort or an allergic reaction. Gave me a prescription for some kind of mild steroid cream. He told me not to use the stronger stuff he gave me awhile ago for my legs, or the skin on my face would become translucent - sort of like those visible-man models we had as kids. I'm taking acetaminophen for the swelling. He also suggested I lay off the bee glue for awhile and see if that has any effect.


This health talk has got me thinking of medicines, magic elixers and healthful living....for fans of "I Love Lucy" there's some wav files of Lucy selling vitametavegemin at

Easter Egg

I just downloaded this Easter Egg and a few other pics at Flickr.


38 of the season's best sneaks & sandals at

Vegan Lunch Box

Vegan Lunch Box a blog written by a woman in Kennewick, Washington, has recipes and descriptions of some tasty vegan food.

There's even a recipe for Vegan Twinkies®.

Question Authority

The Nashville Courier-Journal has an article on the rash of hoax calls to McDonalds and other fast food restaurants that occurred several years ago in which supervisors were instructed to strip search and abuse employees, or in some cases customers.

It appears all the calls were the result of one man, a prison guard/police officer wannabe.

It's amazing, sad and disturbing what people will do when confronted by a person they perceive to be in a position of authority.

The newspaper article mentions the The Milgram Experiment where volunteers were instructed to administer electric shocks to a person who failed to answer questions correctly on a test. About 2/3 of the participants went along with what the person in authority told them to do and in one replication of the study over 80 percent of the people administered shocks they thought were lethal to the victim.

From the article -

"Milgram died in 1984, but his biographer and protege, Dr. Thomas Blass, said in an interview that the behavior of the people duped in the strip-search hoaxes would not have surprised him."

"Once you accept another person's authority, you become a different person," Blass said. "You are concerned with how well you follow out your orders, rather than whether it is right or wrong."

Anyone who puts themself in a place where unquestioning obedience to authority is held paramont would do well to study and take heed to the results of this experiment. It isn't much of a stretch to consider how some of the totally dysfunctional things that flow through/down management chains come to be, when you take into account what some of us will do if told by the "right" person.

Talk to a Human Customer Service Representative

Paul English's Blog has some interesting posts including the gethuman database of secret phone numbers and codes to get to a human when calling a company for customer service.


He also has a post that links to a article on caller ID spoofing such as offered by This service allows you to select any phone number you would like to show up on the Caller ID of someone you call. Besides the obvious prank potential, this might come in handy when you call customer service at a company who's been non-responsive to a good customer like you.

Theoretically (kids don't try this at home) you could use a service like this to find a corporate executive's phone number from a company that has been offering you poor customer service. After you get the CEO's or other high-level exec's number to use as your spoofed caller ID, don't bother calling customer service - they're just poor hacks, instead call someone in low level management that would never have spoken directly to the CEO/executive. Tell them you received a phone call from a customer (you) who has been receiving terrible service from the company. In your most authoritative voice tell them you are holding them personally responsible (whether this makes any sense or not).

Before you actually do something like this you might want to consult an attorney since according to the Wired article the FCC is cracking down on Caller ID spoofing. Some of the websites that offer these services are non-US entities, so that might provide you with some measure of confidence that the FBI won't be knocking on your door.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Brain Death by Dull Cubicle

Interesting information for people who work in cubicles from Kathy Sierra.

According to the article, all work and no play not only make Jack a dull boy but also a dumber boy.

In this context play includes an enriching and stimulating environment. The theory is that we are able to create new brain cells, but only if we provide our brains with the proper conditions. Your brain not only needs interesting things to work on, but also to look at and play with, to keep in shape.

It's easy to think of all the stimulating things we can find outside of the office space and compare those to what we find at work. Outside of the office we can find new things in nature - the changing light of day, the sunrise, sunset, natural objects - trees, rocks, grass, water - the weather, animals, plants, insects - they all change, grow or move - and are very interesting. We can have pets or other animals around us...again very interesting. We can interact with different types of people - young/old, those with different backgrounds, different interests - with family members, friends and every so often some strangers to stir things up.

At work we become one-dimensional; we have only our work to bring us interest/joy/beauty/satisfaction. For some that may be enough. For others, considering the amount of time we spend at work we might want to think of ways to bring other forms of social/mental/emotional enrichment into our workspace. I think we may only now be seeing some of the effects on our social/mental/emotional development as we replace nature and human interaction - with indoor spaces and computers.

Have you noticed how few people just walk these days? We can't just walk and enjoy the air, the light, your breathing - we have to walk and talk on a cell phone. I also think some of the lack of civility that is creeping into our society can be blamed on the man/machine marriage. Talking to yourself used to be considered bad form - not anymore. Interrupting people, without asking their permission, used to be considered rude - not anymore - we are conditioned to think we deserve to be interrupted by cell phones, pagers, and email popping up.

Interesing think of the movie Crash that just won the best picture. They start the movie with Don Cheadle saying people have become so disconnected from each other that they actually crash their cars into each other just to have human contact.

I've rambled enough I suppose...back to the point -

Kathy Sierra has some suggestions for blowing your own mind to counterract the mind numbing/dumbing effects of a non-stimulating environment. Basically try doing some things you don't normally do to give your brain a workout. It isn't enough to be doing a "lot" of things, they have to be activities that tap into parts of your brain you don't normally use.

The idea that we need to learn about lots of things - art, science, politics, history, math, religion, philosophy - and that we need to do at least some of that learning experientially, combining theory with practice, may seem old hat to anyone with a liberal arts type education or lifetime learners in general, but it is news to some and that's good.

We all need to learn more.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

St. Patrick's Day - Friday March 17th

Did you know that leprechauns smoke acorns in their pipes?

You will if you check out the The Leprechaun Watch at They even have a webcam, hidden in a field overlooking a fairy ring in Tipperary, Ireland, that you can use to look for leprechauns, fairies, elves and other wee folk.

Lot's of information on Saint Patrick, Ireland and all things Irish at


Irish Heritage Month

Waterford Lismore Irish Coffees, Pair

Waterford Shamrock

Waterford 8" Celtic Cross

Waterford Irish Romance Medallion, Ist Edition

To Do Today

"So, Dad, I planned out our whole day. First we'll make snow angels for two hours, and then we'll go ice skating, and then we'll eat a whole roll of Toll House cookie dough as fast as we can, and then to finish, we'll snuggle."

Buddy The Elf


Too nice for snow angels today but these are only two of a whole lot of other things to do on this nice Saturday -

Everett Community College hosts the Washington State Science Olympiad today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Seven hundred students from middle and high schools will be participating in this regional tournament which includes 44 different events ranging from bridge building to forensics.

Roller Derby comes to the Everett Events Center tonight at 6 p.m. I heard on KIRO 710 last night that the doors open at 5 p.m. and you can get good general admission seats for 10 dollars. This an exhibition match featuring Seattle's Rat City Rollergirls a league made up of four teams - the Derby Liberation Front, Grave Danger, Throttle Rockets and the Sockit Wenches.

You might get to see skaters like Canuckle Sandwich, Shovey Chase, Arielle Speedwagon, Ann R. Kissed, Pris Toff or Electric Fanny.

The Everett Herald has an article about these fun-loving wild skaters. They sell out every bout and over 2600 tickets have already been sold for tonight's charity brawl.

Let's get ready to rumble.


ORBITZ: Top 10 Spring Break Destinations

McDonald's Videogame

You can raise virtual cows, or soybeans, and then move through the steps from production to market in McDonald's Videogame.

I lost pretty quick because I cut down a lot of rain forests to raise a big herd of cows. It was fun while it lasted.

Boing Boing: Games to subvert post-industrial capitalism

Friday, March 03, 2006

Samurai Appliance Repair Man

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you want (or need) to fix an appliance yourself the Samurai Appliance Repair Man at has a lot of good info.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

43 Things - Be More Efficient When Working

Interesting comment for those of us who want to Be More Efficient When Working from gochess over at

A snip -

"You find yourself investing more and more time in meta-activities like getting organized, prioritizing objectives, and learning the latest productivity software. Actually doing the tasks that your system is designed to manage becomes almost an afterthought . . . perhaps even an annoyance. Instead of helping you increase productivity, your system becomes a means to disguise low productivity."